Russell Noles wants to make sure Metropolitan State University of Denver students have access to the same opportunities he did when he graduated from what was then known as Metropolitan State College in 1981 with a degree in Accounting.
“MSU Denver opened the doors to my career,” Noles said. “I relied heavily on the advice I received from my Accounting professors, and it paved the way for my career.”
With a government job lined up after graduation, Noles was initially determined to avoid public accounting, even going so far as to ignore the process of setting up interviews with the Big Eight firms coming to campus. Accounting Professor Russell Bean suggested he take a different approach.
“Bean had a deep knowledge of accounting and gave me pragmatic advice. He said that to give myself the best start in an accounting career, I needed to start with one of the Big Eight,” he said. “He generously made some calls to set up interviews and got my career set on a very different trajectory.”
Starting at the ground level wasn’t easy. “It’s like boot camp,” said Noles. “Everyone, no matter how great of a student you were, starts at the same ground level and does the grunt work for most of the first year, which paves the way for rapid increases in responsibility in the second year and beyond.”
The experience led to a career that included more than 17 years in the financial-services and Denver telecommunications industries. Over the years, Noles worked for US West and Qwest Communications in accounting, finance and internal-audit roles and St. Paul Travelers Cos. as the vice president and chief internal-audit executive. In 2004, he joined the Teacher’s Insurance & Annuity Association as senior vice president and chief internal-audit executive. Before retiring in March 2019, Noles served as the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Nuveen, a wholly owned asset-management subsidiary of TIAA; he was responsible for executive oversight of the company’s finance, information-technology, operations and risk-management functions.
In addition to his professional achievements, Noles has given back to the University for over 30 years with his time, treasure and talent. Elected vice chair of the MSU Denver Board of Trustees in December 2019, he is also the chair of the Finance Committee, serves on the Governance and Academic and Student Affairs Committees and the Hospitality Learning Center Board and is a former member of the Alumni Association and the MSU Denver Foundation Board of Directors. Noles has also spent time in the classroom as a guest lecturer, offering students the same kind of guidance and advice he got as a Roadrunner.
“The energy you get from being around our students is amazing,” he said. “It’s a source of positivity.”
To help MSU Denver prepare for serving its diverse body of students well into the future, Noles recently established a planned gift in the form of a charitable-gift annuity. “If people are thinking about planned giving, this is a great way to do it,” he said.
When a donor makes a gift to their favorite 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization through a charitable-gift annuity, it provides the donor with a fixed, lifetime income stream and a tax deduction in the year the gift was made. Upon the death of the donor, the remainder of the gift is retained by the organization.
Noles made his gift available for general use to provide maximum flexibility and allow the University to target the most critical issues at its discretion. He is proud of the way MSU Denver’s open-access policy has made a balanced education available to anyone who wants to come to learn, work hard and find success as they define it.
“An educated society is a better society,” he said. “I want MSU Denver to be able to continue to do for future students what they did for me, and as long as I can help perpetuate the University’s mission and success, I will.”
For more information about planned giving, contact Shelley Thompson, associate vice president of university advancement.